Yes, I am still alive! I have made it safely back to western Ireland, and I am getting settled back into my home. Of course, I don’t actually have a place to unpack yet, but I am remembering my way around town and beginning the search for housing again.
I know you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles for the next story from my adventure, so here goes…
Off we go…
As part of my trip, I met up with a dear friend to do some walking and praying along the coastal path in Somerset. The first day, we set out in the morning for a day of walking, and things were going pretty well for a bit. And then it started…
You see, nearly a year ago, I messed my knee up, and it has never quite recovered. I knew asking it to carry me for 10 miles in a day was a bit much, but I was NOT going to miss out on this chance to walk/hang out/pray with my friend whom I had not seen in years. For the first couple of miles, I barely felt anything, but by the half-way mark it was hurting a fair bit. As the trail got more difficult to navigate with my cloth sneakers and mud, my knee got more and more unhappy with the pressure it was under to keep me upright and moving forward.
We stopped for a late lunch and I began to pray about whether I should catch a bus back to our accommodation or finish the remaining 3 or so miles. I wanted to be wise, and not allow my pride to cause injury. As I prayed, I felt like I should finish the allotted miles for that day, and by the grace of God, I did.
By the time we arrived at the bus stop to await our chariot back to Minehead, I could barely walk. From my waist down to my toes on the right side, everything hurt with every step, but I made it. As I struggled through each step of those final miles, I prayed about the future of my walks with my friend. I had set out to walk with her nearly every day for a week, and that didn’t look likely at this point.
That’s when I realized a glaring omission in my planning and preparation. I hadn’t prayed about whether I was meant to embark on this walk in the first place. I am always in awe of the grace that God extends for the tough things as we follow Him, but what about when we step out on our own?
There is incredible strength to be found as we walk in His grace, but when we step outside of His calling, even for good things, we are moving in our own strength. Based on my experience during this walk, I can’t help but wonder how much of the joy that becomes our strength is the result of knowing that you’re doing as He has asked. Because I wasn’t convinced for much of that day that I was, in fact, following His direction for me, it seemed really difficult.
After praying, I decided to have a day to myself the next day, and my friend carried on walking without me. I spent time that day having fun in the pool, relaxing, and praying for my friend and about whether I should walk the next day or not. I realized during the time I spent listening to God that I was not called to change Britain by walking with my friend. My prayers might make a difference for the Kingdom of God on that island, and prayer never hurts, but I cannot take on the calling of someone else.
As I walked that first day, I was trying to walk in the calling that God has given to someone else, and it wasn’t working. The grace that she has for that journey does not extend to me because that calling does not extend to me, and grace follows calling.
Let me take a moment to clarify one thing. When I speak of grace in this context, I do not mean the Grace by which followers of Christ are saved. That Grace extends to anyone who will accept it, and there is no limit! The grace I am referring to is the supernatural strength to walk through difficulties. It is what the apostle Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It is God’s power made perfect in weakness.
So, what was I called to do during that week I was spending with my friend? I was called to be a blessing to her, and the best way to bless her the following day was to join her on the journey again. With that realization came the knowledge that His grace would indeed be sufficient even though I wasn’t sure I could do another full day of walking.
Wait. That doesn’t make sense… I’m called to do another full day of walking? How is that different from the first day? I’m doing the same thing…
Yes. I was putting one foot in front of the other, setting out for a day of walking that in many ways turned out to be more difficult than the first. There was more mud (ankle deep in places), bugs that left my ankles red, itchy, and inflamed for days, a lack of water that made me wonder if I would pass out, blisters that got infected, and a very close call with even making it back to our room that night… (We got to the bus stop 4 minutes after the last bus of the day was scheduled to depart. Thank God the bus was 5 minutes late!)
The difference that day was that I knew I was meant to be there, and I knew why. That knowledge brought joy that I was walking (literally) in what I was called to do for that moment, and that joy brought strength that carried me through every step, every tear. There is something very freeing and empowering about knowing that you are fulfilling your purpose, no matter how small it may seem in the grand scheme of things.
That second day wasn’t the last I spent walking with my friend either. The final day, we spent most of it walking on the beach, and it was wonderful! Oddly, though, that isn’t the day that first comes to mind when I think of my time walking with my friend along the West Somerset Coastal Path. That honor nearly always goes to the day that was beyond hard and yet filled with the knowledge that there was a purpose in the steps, and therefore a special grace on each one.
I think a lot about identity, calling, and purpose because the passion that God has put in me is to see others discover those things. This experience was another reminder of why that passion is so important. Knowing why we do what we do – and whether we are called to do it – can make all the difference in the world. Too often we see the things others are doing, and see no reason we shouldn’t join them in their endeavors.
We should all be praying and sharing our faith and trying to bring justice where it isn’t. The danger is trying to fill the role that God has given someone else because it seems noble or exciting or whatever else. Maybe we just don’t know what our calling is, and so it seems good to join in someone else’s. If God has not called us to walk that path, it is not our journey to walk, and the grace for those steps don’t extend to us.
Does that mean we should just stand still until we know which path is ours? No. Pray, seek wisdom, use your brain and work to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Just do those things in God’s strength, and be open to hearing God say that isn’t your calling. Most people aren’t born knowing what they are called to do, and callings change sometimes with the seasons of life. Be aware of when the grace lifts or isn’t there to begin with, and let that be a clue that perhaps you aren’t called to that path.
We will all have difficulties along our path, but His grace is always sufficient!